Star of the West Milling Co. has received a $4.9 million grant as part of the USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. The funds will be spread out over the five-year life of the project, which is called “A climate-smart strategy for the Michigan foodshed.”
Lisa Woodke, sustainability director at Star of the West, will work alongside Julie Doll, PhD, of Michigan Agriculture Advancement (MiAA), in leading the project.
“Star of the West has been facilitating sustainable agriculture for years, and this grant will increase our presence and allow us to offer more to the farmers that grow the food we enjoy,” Woodke says. “With our long history in flour milling, combined with our dry bean and food grade soybean programs and a new offering in oats, we are excited to be working in this climate-smart and sustainable food space.”
As part of the partnership, Star of the West said it will work hand-in-hand with Michigan growers to document and reward existing climate-smart management and help support new management for food crops. Meanwhile, a “climate smart” agronomist will help farmers collect data and use technology platforms compatible with their farm. Star of the West will then assist food companies in sourcing these climate-smart grains to use in their products.
Star of the West Milling Co. and MiAA also will develop a plan of work that includes assistance from additional partners Artisan Grain Collaborative and Shiftology Communication. In addition, they will work closely with an advisory board, including representatives from Hasenick Brothers Farm, Kellogg Biological Station, Midwest GRIT, Van Buren County Conservation District, Wisconsin Women in Conservation and the Bavarian Inn Restaurant of Frankenmuth, Mich.
Woodke has spearheaded several initiatives at Star of the West since being hired as sustainability director in July 2019. In March 2022, the company partnered with The Nature Conservancy to launch an innovative, sustainably-grown wheat incentive program for farmers in the Saginaw Valley in Michigan. She also has led several projects, including the installation of solar panels at the company’s Richville, Mich., location, the addition of a pollinator strip at the company’s Emmett, Mich., location, the launch of Airly carbon crackers and the Frankenmuth goat riverbank project.